Provost Update: Greatness Happen When Disciplines Intersect; Teaching and Learning Span Disciplines; Paseo Prototype Challenge Teams Solve Civic Issues;  Students Form Connections to Professors and Curriculum in Humanities Honors; Passion for Jazz Wins Chemistry Professor 2017 Bobby Jackson Award; Spartans Host Safe and Green Halloween Festival Oct. 20; and Subscribe to the Academic Spotlight blog.
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Academic Affairs Division Newsletter October 2017 edition

Provost Update: Greatness Happens When Disciplines Intersect

While Halloween is still a day away, I had the pleasure of celebrating early this month at McKinley Elementary School during the 10th Annual Safe and Green Halloween Festival. The yearly event hosted by SJSU’s CommUniverCity and the city of San Jose brings together neighborhood children and families for an afternoon of fun while also teaching them about sustainability and healthy living. SJSU students and faculty from the health science, business and environmental studies programs worked with dozens of officials to make the event a success.
As economist Robert J. Shiller once said, “In the longer run and for wide-reaching issues, more creative solutions tend to come from imaginative interdisciplinary collaboration.” We take this to heart at our university. The October event is just one example of the multi-disciplinary learning opportunities we provide for our students. Through these experiences, they are prepared for a world that increasingly requires collaboration on interdisciplinary teams. Whether our students pursue careers in the arts, sciences, technology, business, healthcare, the public sector or nonprofits, they will be prepared for the kind of thoughtful interactions that can lead to groundbreaking developments.
We have a long history of taking an interdisciplinary approach to education, as with our Humanities Honors Program founded in 1954. The program appeals to students from a variety of majors who understand that a strong foundation in communication and critical thinking will benefit them – in engineering, business, psychology or any one of a multitude of majors. In another unique course, students enrolled in a Global Climate Change benefit from natural science, environmental studies and communications perspectives in a team-taught course that highlights how climate scientists and advocates need to find an effective way to communicate to the public.
Our university is a rich environment for people with different skill sets and interests to connect, and sometimes this intersection of passions happen within one individual. This is surely the case for Chemistry Professor Bradley Stone who recently won an award for a weekly jazz music program and for Professor Gordon Douglas whose teaching and research explores the connection between urban political-economy, community studies and the cultures of planning and design.
As we continue to focus on student success, I am excited to explore more ways we can foster interdisciplinary 
learning, teaching and research on our campus.
Happy Halloween!

Andy Feinstein
Provost and Senior VP for Academic Affairs

Teaching and Learning Span Disciplines

Photo: James Tensuan 
Gordon Douglas, a professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning applies his knowledge of communications and sociology to his interdisciplinary research on unauthorized do-it-yourself urban planning.
By David Goll

As with many institutions of higher education, students at San Jose State University are exposed to a variety of subjects through their lower division GE courses. But many professors are also taking interdisciplinary approaches within courses, providing students with a deeper understanding of how knowledge and skills can span across majors.
Rampini, Tasha Reddy and Bettina Brockmann are taking a multi-pronged approach to tackle the myriad of issues involved with climate change in a course they are teaching this year. The trio of instructors is examining the issue through the academic lenses of science, economic and social impacts, and communications, among others.
For today's college students, climate change is not some distant, theoretical menace years away that is unlikely to affect their lives. Many want to learn as much about the issue as possible to confront what they consider a real threat to their futures.
They view this cross-disciplinary approach as the ideal way to educate the upcoming generation of citizens and leaders on this vast subject.
The twice-weekly, two-semester course -- Global Climate Change -- earns six units this fall and three next spring for its 90 enrolled students (though the class capacity is 120.) It is comprised of mostly juniors and seniors majoring in communications, environmental studies or a multitude of other majors such as physics, theatre arts, economics and public relations, among others.

Developed in 2007, Global Climate Change is in its 10th year and has served nearly 1,000 students, according to Anne Marie Todd, a professor of Communications. Integrating climate science with policymaking, public communication strategies and principles of climate justice, students complete the course as climate experts. It’s the only course of its kind at SJSU and in the CSU and has twice been recognized by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) for educational excellence.
"Students love community engagement projects that promote climate change awareness in schools, 
neighborhoods and businesses," Todd said. "For example, students create educational materials integrating climate science with practical knowledge in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Students have founded nonprofit groups and developed programs that support ongoing community educational initiatives."
Recent surveys and focus group interviews of course alumni show that students feel a lasting personal connection to climate change and a strong sense of personal obligation and perceived individual agency to address climate change in their personal and professional lives. 

"I think ours is a unique approach," said Rampini, who earned a Ph.D. in environmental studies, focusing on climate change adaptations in India, from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2016. She is in her second year as an SJSU lecturer.
Jamie Pilar, a senior majoring in communications studies, said she was not a climate change skeptic, but also not a passionate advocate in favor of taking action on the issue when she enrolled in the class this fall. But her class experience has changed her outlook, and she has found a cause worth studying and promoting.
"I'm a communications student, and I've never particularly liked science," Pilar, who transferred to SJSU from Ohlone College, said during a break in the class held in Washington Square Hall. "This class has challenged me to view the issue of climate change from many different perspectives. I've started talking about this with my friends and family. They're surprised I've developed such a strong interest and point of view on this subject."
Pilar has learned to appreciate the natural science instruction of Reddy, the newest member of the teaching team who started at SJSU in August after completing post-doctoral work on climate change in the Arctic Ocean region using supercomputers. She discusses the Earth's climate systems and how humans have an impact on climate through their activities. Rampini enlightens students on how humans are in turn affected by climate change.
Another student Akash Patel recently interact with former Vice President Al Gore during a livestream Q&A about An Inconvenient Sequel. Patel asked what students can do to influence a tax on carbon system. View a video of the encounter online.

Brockmann, who came to the United States from Germany 19 years ago and has been teaching this class since 2012, highlights how climate scientists and climate change advocates can effectively communicate their message to the public.
"The multi-disciplinary approach helps students make connections," 
Rampini said.
That multi-faceted teaching style informs not only the classroom presentations of Gordon Douglas assistant professor of SJSU's Urban and Regional Planning 
department but also guides him in conducting his academic research.
That includes the extensive, wide-ranging research he compiled for his book about unauthorized do-it-yourself urban planning done by residents of large cities in North America and Europe, titled "The Help Yourself City." Described as a multi-disciplinary urbanist, Douglas is a newcomer to SJSU, having joined the Department of Urban and Regional Planning this fall. He earned his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago, a master's degree in Global Communication from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and a bachelor's degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California, among other academic achievements. He completed his post-doctoral work at New York University's Institute for Public Knowledge.
Douglas conducted more than 100 interviews for his forthcoming book, spending many weeks doing research in such cities as Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto, New York and London. Delving into his interest in culture and gentrification, he studied how residents of these cities created their own pocket parks, median-strip gardens, pedestrian seating, unofficial bike lanes and even their own system of directional signs along streets in an ultra-conservative Jewish enclave in the New York City borough of Brooklyn -- independent of city planners.
Compiling both quantitative and qualitative data and statistics, Douglas also returned to his hometown, Davis, to study how Minneapolis-based Target Corp. managed to build the first big-box retail outlet in the famously slow-growth university town of 65,000 west of Sacramento. A development particularly surprising after city's voters rejected a proposal for a second Village Homes project to create another green, sustainable residential community.
"An interesting study into how large companies can get what they want, even in unexpected places," Douglas said.
He now teaches Social Issues in Planning and a course in Urban Design at SJSU. Douglas also serves as director of the university's Institute for Metropolitan Studies and will be working with his students to create a documentary film series.

Paseo Prototype Challenge Teams Solve Civic Issues

Photo: James Tensuan 
Clockwise from top: Members of the B-Team created a prototype of bee boxes to be placed around downtown San Jose; Assistant Professor Gary Craig Hobbs speaks to the audience at the Paseo Prototype Festival April 8; SJSU students await the selection of the winning prototypes.
By Barry Zepel

Last year, 16 teams of creative and imaginative students showcased their technological solutions for many of their city’s most pressing issues – including downtown safety, traffic congestion, homelessness, and support of local small business entrepreneurs – at the Paseo Public Prototyping Festival in downtown San Jose in April. In preparation for the festival, students majoring in art, design, engineering, business and the sciences spent months in collaboration with fellow team members to develop and refine their proposed solutions for improving quality of life in San Jose.

In September 2016, SJSU in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the City of San José, 
Intel, Microsoft and Autodesk – launched the Paseo Public Prototyping Challenge and Festival. The Challenge and Festival will be held every two years, pending funding.

“San José State University students are making a difference through their creative and technical talents,” said Gary Craig Hobbs, faculty director of the Paseo Prototyping Challenge and Festival. “The festival is the culmination of a year-long civic innovation challenge designed to incubate solutions to pressing social and environmental problems in San Jose.”

The 2016-17 student teams were selected by a competitive review process headed by university faculty members, as well as industry professionals, shared prototypes that included:
  • A skateboard modified to generate electricity that can be used to charge a cell phone or power a headlight for the board to be safer at night;
  • An app to better control city traffic and enhance access to public transportation;
  • Devices to collect solar energy during the day in order to light up pedestrian walkways at night;
  • A social app enabling residents to follow the actions of their local government, while communicating with it to access services and report problems;
  • An inventory-tracking module to help local food entrepreneurs provide fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods to city residents;
  • An app to help drivers more efficiently locate available parking spaces near their downtown destinations, while eliminating excess traffic jams;
  • A collaborative educational game that encourages learning and offers first-hand experience, while keeping students continuously engaged; and
  • An app that helps individuals with niche interests and hobbies find other like-minded persons as well as events and organizations related to those pursuits.

Students Form Connections to Professors and Curriculum in Humanities Honors

Photo: James Tensuan
Professor James Lindahl, philosophy and humanities, lectures on Greek philosophers to a class of Humanities Honors program students.

By Melissa Anderson

Alisala Nunes, a first-year student, initially wanted to attend a liberal arts school. But when she discovered she could pursue a degree in civil engineering at San Jose State University’s top-ranked Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering and apply for the Humanities Honors program, it seemed like a win-win.

“It was a nice surprise that SJSU had a program like this,” she said.

The Humanities Honors program was founded in 1954 by four professors who combined history, literature, arts and philosophy education into a four-semester program that fulfills many GE requirements while also providing a learning community for students. The students stay together as a cohort for four semesters.

“I’ve made a few friends in my seminar,” Nunes said. “Most friends are from my living situation or major, so it’s nice to have a switch to talk to people who are interested in other things.”

For Nunes, she said the Humanities Honors Program has already begun to teach her the analytic and communication skills she will need for engineering, where she sees the ability to work as team member to be essential.

“I leave every lecture with new ideas and see the interconnectivity of disciplines,” she said. “I see how art, 
religion, law and culture tie together.”

Professor Cynthia Rostankowski, the coordinator of the program, said the majority of students who enter the program are from non-Humanities majors, such as business, psychology, economics, computer science and others. She noted that the qualifications for the program are within reach of many students, with a requirement that they have a 3.0 unweighted GPA and 550 on the SAT reading/writing section (students can also qualify 
with select other entrance exams or a 3+ on an AP English exam.)

“A lot of people think it is just for high-achieving 
students,” Rostankowski said. "But it’s really to help students learn how to learn.”

Through the program, students attend a lecture class that 
is team taught by four professors and then break out into smaller groups for seminar sessions.
Carmel Weiler, a graduate student in philosophy and Rostankowski’s teaching assistant, said she joined the program as an undergraduate. Even though she had to stop out for personal reasons, she said being part of the program helped her resolve to return to her education years later. During her time away from her studies, she kept all her books; they benefited her as she tutored neighborhood kids.

“The program stressed how to write well, and that will help me in the research phase,” she said, as she continues to work on her master’s and plans to pursue a doctorate.

In 2014, the department began offering an Advanced Honors Program that works on the same principles, completing SJSU Studies areas R, S and V. It is a two-semester program that is team-taught and provides a cohort for upper division students who have successfully completed the WST, including incoming transfer students.

Isaiah McNair-Wilson, a transfer student who will be graduating in 2017, said he joined the Advanced Honors Program as he thought it would be “fun to take eclectic classes.”

As a business major with an emphasis in marketing, he said he made many friends in Advanced Honors and has learned a lot about writing. The skills have already helped him as he pens cover letters for his job search.

“The classes teach critical thinking,” he said. “You need humanities courses no matter what field you are in so you understand the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of what you do.”

In addition to the skills and knowledge students gain in the 
classroom, Rostankowski said the programs also provide mentoring and advising for students.

“At orientation, I ask students if they have heard of the sport of curling,” she said, describing how players move a stone across a sheet of ice. “There is one position called a sweeper who skates backward to clear a 
path so the stone can slide smoothly to where it is intended to go. I see my work as doing that for students.  We need to do what we can to assist students to find their path and thrive.”

2017-18 Humanities Honors Instructors:
Tova Cooper, Humanities 
James Lindahl, Philosophy & Humanities
David Mesher, English & Humanities 
Johanna Movassat, Art History & Humanities
Kenneth Peter, Political Science & Humanities
Cynthia Rostankowski, Humanities 
Jennifer Rycenga, Humanities
Gregory Smay, Humanities
Andrew Wood, Communication Studies & Humanities
2017-18 Advanced Honors Instructors:
James Lindahl
Cynthia Rostankowski

Passion for Jazz Wins Chemistry Professor 2017 Bobby Jackson Award

Photo: James Tensuan
Chemistry Professor Bradley Stone has been named the 2017 Bobby Jackson Award for Jazz Programmer of the Year by the weekly online industry publication, JazzWeek.
By David Goll
Even as a toddler, Dr. Bradley Stone had an uncanny ability to choose music to entertain visitors to his parents' Chicago home.
"When I was one and a half years old, my mother would ask friends and relatives to make a musical request," Stone said. "They would look at her and say, 'How can he do that when he's so young?' She would just laugh and say, 'Go ahead. He can do it!'"
It was an early indication of what would become a lifelong passion and avocation. This past August, a very grown-up Stone observed the 32nd anniversary of his hire date at SJSU. But he is not a professor in the School of Music and Dance or even the Department of TV, 
Radio, Film and Theatre. He has been professor of Chemistry at SJSU  since the 1985-86 academic year and served a stint as department's chair between 2003 and 2012.
Along with all of his accomplishments in his chosen academic field, Stone takes great pride in winning the 2017 Bobby Jackson Award for Jazz Programmer of the Year by the weekly online industry publication, JazzWeek. It’s the third time the San Jose State professor has won the honor (tenth time overall as Jazz Programmer of the Year), this time for his weekly jazz music program titled "The Creative Source" available through the
website, based in the United Kingdom. Stone records the show, surrounded by his extensive collection including tens of thousands of CDs, in the radio studio he built in his Gilroy home. Nominations for the award come from jazz artists, record label executives, promoters, publicists and other programmers.
"It's extremely gratifying to win this award," said Stone, who received his 
award in the Internet and Non-Terrestrial category during an August ceremony at San Jose's Hotel De Anza. "It's wonderful to be recognized for your work by other members of the jazz music family. I like to think I’m recognized as a good programmer in the industry, and that others look to me for my playlists."

Jackson, legendary Cleveland-based jazz programmer, became a good friend of Stone's after the pair met years ago at industry gatherings. Jackson introduced Stone to Brian Hurst of via a phone call just days before he died suddenly at age 57 in December 2013.
"I felt it was meant to be," Stone said of the collaboration with Hurst at
Hurst, CEO of, said Stone's weekly selection of music -- emphasizing jazz fusion and progressive jazz -- is marked by his devotion to providing a platform for new artists, premiering music that would otherwise "
fall between the cracks."
"His accolades over the years suggest he's a man to be both respected and trusted and in that word trust, you can begin to understand why people would consider his music selection to become the starting point to discover new artists, new styles, new sounds," Hurst said.
It is motivated not only by Stone's love of this American-born musical genre but of a variety of musical styles, including rock. He played in a rock band during his undergraduate college days at the University of Illinois, Chicago in the 1970s, then had his first disc jockeying job at campus radio station WQAX while pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical physics at Indiana University, Bloomington in the 1980s. He later became jazz music director at radio station KUCI while a postdoctoral research associate at the University of California, Irvine.
"I've been a music head my entire life," Stone said.
He further honed his radio skills and expanded his knowledge of jazz and other musical styles just a week after arriving at San Jose State. That was when he launched a Saturday deejay gig at campus radio station KSJS that lasted from 1985 to 1997, then again from 2001 to 2012. He served as the station’s jazz music director for virtually that entire time, as well as a faculty adviser to students in the university's Department of TV, 
Radio, Film and Theatre, before stepping down in early 2013.
"I have mentored literally thousands of students at KSJS," Stone said of the job he did teaching on-air and behind-the-scenes skills, as well as radio station management.
William Reckmeyer, professor of Anthropology who retired earlier this year after 40 years at San Jose State, met Stone through yet another activity that has become a passion for the chemistry professor. Stone was named a Fellow in SJSU's Salzburg Program, a global education program that sends several students and faculty members to study in Austria or Germany since 2005. Reckmeyer, instrumental in designing and implementing the European program, said he has become a big fan of Stone's enthusiasm for the Salzburg program and his impressive record of accomplishments in academia and jazz music programming.
"He was instrumental in helping KSJS win national awards for being the best collegiate jazz station, besides all of the individual awards he won for programming," Reckmeyer said. "I'm a rock 'n roll guy, and I know a bit about jazz, but when you have a good friend, you take an interest in what they love. Brad is so knowledgeable and passionate about jazz."
As Stone is, too, about chemistry. He developed an interest in the sciences at age 6, becoming fascinated by chemistry, physics, 
astronomy, entomology and geology as a youngster. Though focusing his academic career on the interdisciplinary field of chemical physics, Stone has also worked in molecular astrophysics, astrochemistry, biomedical engineering, computational fluid dynamics, forensic chemistry, non-linear optics and spectroscopy.
When asked if there is much connection between the world of hard scientific disciplines and the fluid, improvisational, creative nature of jazz, Stone draws strong parallels.
"I would say there is the mathematical connection," he said. "Music theory definitely has a mathematical basis. The mathematical relationship between frequencies of notes is the basis for harmony. So, I don't think it is particularly surprising that a large percentage of scientists are also musicians, at least on some level."


Spartans Host Safe and Green Halloween Festival Oct. 20

San Jose State University's CommUniverCity and the city of San Jose partnered to host the 10th Annual Safe and Green Halloween Fiesta at McKinley Elementary School Oct. 20. Students and faculty from many departments, including Health Science, Environmental Studies and the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business worked together to host an afternoon of fun for neighborhood children and their families. SJSU students planned fun activities to teach kids about sustainability and health.

Clockwise from top: CommUniverCity students help elementary school students with arts and crafts; Kids learn about recycling with a can toss game; SJSU students lead children in a game of bowling; Kids in costume wait their turn at the ball toss. City Councilmember Raul Peralez talks to kids about "being green."

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We also encourage you to share your ideas and stories for consideration. Please email Melissa Anderson, the executive communications specialist for the provost, at with any updates you would like to share.
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